José Raúl Vera López was awarded the Rafto Prize 2010 at the National Venue of Theatre in Bergen, Sunday 7 November. After the ceremony there was a torchlight procession.
José Raúl Vera López (65), catholic bishop of Saltillo, Mexico was awarded the Rafto Prize for his struggle for human rights and social justice. He is characterized as one of the most courageous critics of human rights violations in today’s Mexico.
Raúl Vera expressed his gratitude for the Rafto Prize 2010:
It was a great surprise to me to be informed of this acknowledgement, and I am conscious of the fact that this demands greater consistency and compromise on my part. However, within me I find a mix of happiness and pain. The reason for this is simple: This award would not have been possible if Mexico was not lacerated by violence; by the impunity with which delinquency occurs; by an absence of law enforcement; and by complicity at different levels of government that, by action or omission, has led to this situation whereby my compatriots remain not only in utter poverty, but also face uncertainty as to whether there will be a tomorrow.
Dramatic – Mexico
By awarding the Rafto Prize 2010 to José Raúl Vera López, the Rafto Foundation wants to draw attention to the dramatic and worsening human rights conditions in Mexico, where the government attempt to contain the spirraling of violent crime has lead to a militarisation of society that has further deteriorted the human rights conditions. At the same time the Rafto Foundation wants to raise awareness of his efforts to improve the situation.
Prize Committee, said: “Raúl Vera is able to see and care for human beings, as well to recognise how their lives are shaped by unjust power structures in society”.
The absence of the judicial bodies in the persecution of crimes committed by criminal groups prevents the disruption of the framework of complicity that the members of these organizations have established with people in positions of power in the political sphere, be they executive, legislative or juridical; with functionaries of the administrative bodies of the juridical system and public security, with companies and financial groups that do their money laundering.
“Death”, “fear” and “impunity” are, unfortunately, three words that nowadays prevail in the vocabulary of Mexicans. The “war against organized crime” is a fight until death, where, in a mere four years of the current governing regime, the number of deaths officially recognized has reached almost thirty thousand.
This means that as the members of the criminal gangs are assassinated, be they senior bosses, middle ranks or armed wings, testimonies that might have been used against civil servants, businessmen and bankers, or those responsible for financial centres that are accomplices of the criminal underworld, go to the grave with the death of every one of them. This way, these people not only are not brought to trial, but also keep feeding the criminal potential of the groups that appear more powerful every day, encountering a Mexican State that we see as weaker and incapable of confronting them. There is also another sort of impunity covered up by the government: “Pasta de Conchos”, the name of the mine that left sixty-five coal miners buried. The miners were working under terrible safety conditions. Five days after the accident, the company “Industrial Minera México” (IMMSA) of “Grupo México”, and the federal government, suspended the rescue operation. When it was resumed, two bodies were recovered with signs of asphyxia. The company once again stopped the rescue operation a mere one hundred fifty metres from where the workers were. Not only the corpses, but also justice, was buried there. To hinder the rescue is to maintain impunity, to show insecurity and to demonstrate that they let them die.
This left forty-four thousand men and women unemployed, and was done illegally by presidential decree, with no recourse to the National Congress, and backed by the National Supreme Court of Justice. Even though the company belonged to the public sector, the State did not find a solution for the company, blaming it on the company’s alleged poor administration, when the real reason was that they wanted to eradicate the Mexican Union of Electricians (SME), an independent union. The impunity with which actions are committed by organized crime has strengthened these delinquent groups, they have multiplied, and they have started to diversify the crimes they commit. One such diversification is the kidnapping of migrants. Most of the victims are people from Central America and some South American countries who cross the Republic of Mexico seeking to reach the United States, in search of work. In just six months of the year two thousand nine, there were almost ten thousand (9,758) kidnappings of migrants recorded; also unpunished. This has now denounced as a “humanitarian tragedy”.
Voices continue to rise calling for the end of this fiction of the “war against organized crime” to stop being fictional, and for the implementation of a strategy that attempts to let justice prevail over the warlike strategies. The families of the victims of violations of human rights by the hands of the army in this war, as well as the disappeared persons whose numbers grow at an alarming level every day, keep claiming for justice.
Through my work as a preacher in collaboration with groups that defend human rights, I have witnessed how the dignity of the people is attacked with impunity in different spheres and different geographical areas of Mexico: paramilitarization of the indigenous regions of the country, institutionalized violence against the indigenous peoples of Mexico: in states like Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Chihuahua, amongst others. These people’s lives are constantly harmed and peace is constantly interrupted here. Among the members of
the indigenous communities there are political prisoners, persecuted for defending the land, the water and the forests. Other activists in the country also suffer persecution, prison and even death. Freedom of speech is limited in Mexico and various journalists have paid with their lives for having upheld this liberty. Torture as part of the legal process and in prisons is a constant in our country. In Coahuila, we have attended to women raped by members of the Mexican Army, as well as people from groups of diverse sexual orientations that have been segregated, assaulted and beaten.
Impunity is the current characteristic of the administration of justice in Mexico. Even in cases that are apparently solved for those seeking justice, reparation of the damage is non-existent, nor enforcement of judgments. International recommendations are not implemented, and there is no punishment for the violators of human rights in the State itself.
The Rafto Foundation could have been mistaken in choosing the right person for its 2010 Prize, but they were not wrong in choosing Mexico to denounce before the international community the terrible situation of systematic violations of human rights by the Government against men and women who are citizens of our country.
Thank you very much.